HOOVER, Ala. (Ole Miss Athletics) – After trailing for the entirety of the game, No. 7 seed Ole Miss stepped up in the bottom of the eighth and plated two runs – one tying, one go-ahead – off of Arkansas closer Matt Cronin closer to send the No. 2 seed Razorbacks packing and advance to the SEC Tournament semifinals.
Ole Miss had recorded just two hits coming into the eighth inning, and the hard-throwing Cronin entered in the eighth with a 2.08 ERA looking to put the Rebels to rest. Just two days prior, Cronin had quieted the Rebels in a 5-3 loss, in which he struck out all four batters he faced. Today, however, was a different story. Thomas Dillard knocked in the tying run to knot the game at two, and Grae Kessingertipped the scales with a sacrifice fly one at bat later.
The two-run eighth, coupled with a solo homer from Kevin Graham earlier in the game, allowed Ole Miss to escape the contest with a 3-2 win over Arkansas.
Runs came few and far between for the Rebels in the SEC Tournament, after a pair of victories in which Ole Miss scored just a combined three runs, and today was no different. The Rebels were able to survive this week with some strong outings from their pitching staff, and today was no different.
Gunnar Hoglund set a new career high with 6.1 IP, surpassing his tally of 6.0 set twice earlier this season. His only blemish was a two-run home run in the fourth inning from Matt Goodheart, but he was otherwise flawless. He allowed just two other hits, a pair of walks, while striking out six on the day.
Austin Miller (5-2) picked up the win after 1.2 innings of quality relief work, but he was just one piece of the three-headed monster that dominated today’s matchup in Hoglund, Miller, and Parker Caracci.
Grae Kessinger led the Rebels off with a single past a leaping defender and into left field in the first inning for his first hit of the SEC Tournament, but he was caught trying to swipe second to bring the opening frame to a close.
Gunnar Hoglund got out to a hot start, retiring all nine Razorbacks the first time he saw them through the order. He got the leadoff man Trevor Ezell swinging for a positive note to his outing, and then struck out two more in the second inning.
Hoglund’s second time through the order, however, the Razorbacks had his number. In the fourth inning, Hoglund issued a leadoff walk to Ezell, before Goodheart lifted a 1-2 pitch right over the wall in right-center field for a two-run homer. It was the first hit Arkansas recorded off of Hoglund, but it wouldn’t be the last in the inning. He allowed two more singles, but stranded both runners with a fly out to Anthony Servideo in right.
The Rebel starter recovered with back-to-back scoreless frames, although the Razorbacks threatened again in the fifth by loading the bases with two outs.
Ole Miss was held hitless through four innings save for Kessinger’s single back in the first, but freshman Kevin Grahamput a dent in that stat with his ninth home run of the year, a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth that traveled over both fences in right field and bounced off the scoreboard.
The Rebels chased starter Connor Noland after 5.0 IP, though he was able to regroup and close out the fifth following Graham’s homer. He was relieved for RHP Kevin Kopps, but the new arm for the Razorbacks wouldn’t last long, as he quickly allowed a pair of runners to reach on two walks and was pulled from the game. The Rebels couldn’t cash in on the opportunity, however, grounding into a fielder’s choice and flying out to strand both runners.
After a deep ball to the warning track hauled in by Dillard to start the seventh, Hoglund was relieved after a career best 6.1 IP. In came Austin Miller, who quickly retired the rest of the Razorbacks for an easy seventh inning. With his 30th appearance of the year, Miller also tied the program record for most relief appearances in one season.
Graham’s homer had been the only mark on the scoreboard, but that all changed in the eighth. Cooper Johnson led off the frame with a walk, before Jacob Adams reached on another free pass after wearing one on his foot. The revered Razorback closer entered to face Dillard, who took the first pitch right back up the middle for an RBI single, tying the game at two. On the play, Adams hustled into third with a head-first slide, putting him in position to score the deciding run. Kessinger upped the ante one batter later, scoring Adams on a sacrifice fly and giving the Rebels their first lead of the day.
Miller held the Razorbacks scoreless through 1.2 innings, but when it came time for a save opportunity, it was Parker Caracci’s game to finish. Caracci allowed one runner to reach on a walk, but was otherwise perfect, working three quick outs to earn his second save in as many days.
The Rebels advance to play the No. 3 seed Georgia Bulldogs in a single-elimination semifinal matchup tomorrow at noon from the Hoover Met.
– Ole Miss improves to 36-24 on the year.
– The Rebels allowed just eight runs in four games at the SEC Tournament this year.
– The lower-seeded team has won just three times in the SEC Tournament this year, with two of those wins going to the Rebels.
– The Ole Miss pitching staff has been tremendous in the tournament, with a 2.05 ERA over the week.
– The Rebels advance to play the Georgia Bulldogs in a single-elimination game Saturday at noon.
– Grae Kessinger snapped an 0-for-10 streak in the SEC Tournament with a single in the first inning.
– With an appearance today, Austin Miller tied the single-season appearances record for a Rebel pitcher, tying the mark of 30 last set by Will Stokes in 2016. Along with Stokes, Tanner Bailey (2013) and Brett Huber (2010) both had 30 relief appearances for the Rebels.
– Kevin Graham hit his ninth home run today with a solo blast in the fifth inning.
– Gunnar Hoglund recorded a new career long in innings pitched, going 6.1 today which exceeds his previous best of 6.0.
– Hoglund has gone at least 6.0 innings in three of his last five outings.
– Parker Caracci worked his second save of the SEC Tournament, and his tenth of the season. He has now matched his 2018 save total with ten again this year.